What is Fatigue?
Fatigue is an overwhelming feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. You may feel you need to rest all the time because you have no energy or strength.
It differs from the odd occasion when we feel very tired. This generally happens if we have a couple of late nights or a few busy days at work. However, a decent night’s sleep often solves it and we feel as good as new again.
Fatigue generally lasts more than a few weeks. The feelings of lethargy and exhaustion just don’t go away. It gets hard to function and everything seems like a chore.
The onset happens over a period of time and the causes can be both mental or physical. Fatigue itself is not a disease but rather a symptom of something else. It is one of your bodies way of telling you something may be wrong. (1)
There are many causes of fatigue. Some are as a result of the lifestyle choices we make. Others are because of medical conditions, yet it could also be related to emotional issues.
A poor sleep pattern can cause fatigue. Staying up late and then getting up early on a regular basis means you might not get enough sleep. You don’t wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. (2)
Drinks like tea, coffee and soda containing caffeine are not a good idea late in the day as they can interfere with you getting quality rest.
Too much or too little exercise can contribute to the feelings of fatigue.
If we exercise too much the body may react by creating feelings of fatigue and exhaustion in your mind. (3)
However, too little exercise can also make you feel fatigued because you may not sleep properly and your brain may not function as well as it could.
Regular exercise can improve your appetite, energy and outlook on life but it’s important to ensure it’s not excessive (4)
Poor Eating Habits
Our food choices can greatly affect feelings of fatigue. Following a healthy diet means our body gets all the nutrients it needs to function.
We all the know the feeling of lethargy after overindulging in foods deemed to be bad for us. The long term effects of this type of diet can interfere with the working efficiency of our body. (5)
Alcohol and Drugs
Excessive use of alcohol and drugs can have many health implications. In particular they interfere with mood and behaviour.
They affect sleep and memory and they can cause fatigue. (6)
There are many medical conditions that cause you to feel fatigued. In fact, fatigue may be one of the first warning signs of an underlying medical problem. (7)
These medical conditions include:
Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of cancer, it can impact quality of life and the ability to function. It is thought that 50-90% of cancer patients suffer from fatigue. (8)
Diseases that affect the neurological system can cause fatigue. These include conditions like multiple sclerosis, polio myelitis and stroke.
They may leave you feeling like you can’t make an effort to do things and both physical and mental endurance can be affected. (9)
Inflammatory and immune disorders can cause fatigue and adversely affect quality of life for people with rheumatic diseases.
They include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and systemic sclerosis. (10)
Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders
These disorders are associated with glands and hormones including the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. Fatigue may be a reason why you seek medical help if you have one of these disorders. (11)
COPD and Asthma
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma have been identified as causing fatigue. These diseases cause breathing difficulties which make people feel tired and exhausted. (12)
People with celiac disease have an intolerance to gluten. Fatigue is a symptom of untreated celiac disease which impacts quality of life. (13)
Fatigue affects about half of patients with parkinson’s disease. They suffer both physical and mental fatigue which they can find disabling. (14)
Depression and anxiety are psychiatric disorders that can cause fatigue in some people. (15)
Fatigue can be a warning sign you have cardiovascular disease. Reducing fatigue associated with this condition can improve independence and quality of life. (16)
There are many emotional issues that can cause fatigue. These include anxiety, stress, worry and boredom.
We may be working too hard which can lead to sleeplessness and stress.
Boredom is a factor to be considered, particularly later in life. Someone who has recently retired may no longer know what to do with their time. This can lead to lethargy and fatigue. (17)
Depression is another condition that can cause fatigue. (18)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
This syndrome also known as CFS, it’s a condition that describes experiencing fatigue for more than 6 months with no other explanation for the cause.
It can also be called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME. This condition is thought to affect about 2.5 million people in the US and can leave people with issues in all aspects of their daily lives. (19)
Certain medicines can cause fatigue. These include antihistamines, antidepressants and medications for nausea and pain. (20)
The symptoms of fatigue include extreme lethargy and tiredness. You may have lost the spring in your step and can’t be bothered to do anything.
You can feel exhausted and have a lack of strength or energy to carry out everyday tasks. Even sleep might allude and you lose interest in things that you once loved.
Fatigue is usually an indication that there is something else wrong. It is a symptom rather than a cause. (21,22)
If your fatigue persists for a few weeks you should see a doctor.
The doctor will discuss your own and your family medical history and they will ask lot’s of questions about how you feel.
These questions will include your perceptions before and after the fatigue. They will include things like how long it has lasted and whether it comes and goes. They will also want to know about your sleep patterns and what makes you feel better or worse.
The doctor will also need to know whether you are able to think clearly and what prevents you doing things.
It’s important to tell them about any medication you are taking and they may ask about your diet and lifestyle choices.
Depending on the answers to their questions a physical examination and tests may be done.
Fatigue is a symptom of so many other medical conditions this is why your doctor will want to ascertain if one of these is the cause or rule them out. (23)
It can also leave you feeling suicidal or aggressive towards someone else, which if this is the case you need to seek immediate medical advice. (24)
Fatigue accompanied by other symptoms may be a medical emergency. These include chest pains, difficulty breathing or an erratic or rapid pulse. You could feel like you are going to faint or you have relentless abdominal, pelvic or back pain.
What is fatigue? This is an overwhelming feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. It can leave you feeling like you have no energy or strength and want to rest all the time. You may not feel like doing things that you normally would.
What causes fatigue? There are many things associated with fatigue. It is a symptom of many medical conditions and can also be attributed to lifestyle choices we make.
How do doctors test for fatigue? A doctor will ask you many questions about your symptoms and feelings. They will want to know how you were before you felt this way and how you are now. Further tests like blood tests or scans can be done to rule out other medical conditions.
When should you go to the doctors with fatigue? If fatigue lasts for more than a few weeks you should see your doctor. There are occasions when fatigue, accompanied by other symptoms, can be a medical emergency. It may indicate a serious medical problem.
Can you prevent fatigue? There are things in respect of your lifestyle choices that can prevent fatigue. Establishing a good sleep pattern and avoiding stressful situations will help. Limit your use of alcohol and don’t drink caffeinated drinks late in the day. Take regular exercise and follow a healthy diet.
What can relieve fatigue? Despite the temptation, don’t stay up late to watch the end of the movie on TV every night. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and relaxation time. Trying an exercise like yoga might help. (25)
Are there any herbal remedies that can help the symptoms of fatigue? Many cultures use herbal remedies for any number of ailments. Ginseng is one that is widely used. It is believed to improve energy, physical and emotional health, and well-being. It is a promising natural remedy to relieve fatigue. (26)
Can fatigue be treated? Fatigue can be a symptom of many other conditions. Successful treatment of these conditions can alleviate fatigue.
Fatigue is an overwhelming feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. It leaves you feeling like you have no energy or strength and want to rest all the time.
The effects of fatigue can be far reaching and it interferes with work and your social life. For example, you might stop doing things you enjoy like reading or watching TV.
Relationships with family and friends can also be affected when you can’t make the effort to do anything. (27)
Fatigue is a symptom of many medical conditions and you should seek medical help if the feelings of exhaustion and tiredness continue for more than a few weeks.
However, there are things you can do to alleviate fatigue. These include lifestyle choices like a regular sleeping pattern and a healthy diet and exercise regime.